William Riley Estes



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William Riley Estes (1833-1880)

William Riley Estes was born in 1833 (or so) in Callaway, Missouri, as the first child of John Estes and Jane Calvin. He had four siblings, namely: James A., Moses Patrick, Thomas H. B., and Mary Elizabeth.

Sadly, sometime in his late teens, William’s mother passed away. His father remarried to Cynthia Ann Martin on 30 Jan 1853.

When he was 22, William Riley Estes married Margaret A. O’Donnell, daughter of Thomas C. O’Donnell and Martha Canterbury, on 26 Aug 1855 in Callaway, Missouri.

William Riley Estes and Margaret A. O’Donnell, marriage record.

William Riley Estes and Margaret A. O’Donnell had the following children:

  1. John Thomas Estes was born on 07 May 1856 in Steedman, Callaway, Missouri. He married Zelpha Lou McCall on 27 Dec 1883 in Portland, Callaway, Missouri. He died on 28 Jul 1947 in Callaway, Missouri.
  2. James H.B. Estes was born in 1858 in Callaway, Missouri. He died between 1870–1876 in Missouri.
  3. Anna Eliza Estes was born in Oct 1859 in Callaway, Missouri. She married Joseph Andrew Wright on 23 Mar 1882 in Linn, Osage, Missouri.  She died on 08 May 1937 in Centralia, Lewis, Washington (Age: 76).
  4. Moses Patton Barnett Estes was born on 27 Nov 1862 in Portland, Callaway, Missouri. He married Mary Emeline Estill on 12 Sep 1899 in Reform, Callaway, Missouri, He died on 18 Dec 1917 in Steedman, Callaway, Missouri.
  5. Laura Alice Estes was born on 26 May 1864 in Callaway, Missouri, USA.  She married William Berry on 26 May 1881 in Callaway, Missouri. She married James Emmett Newsom on 23 Aug 1890 in Hams Prairie, Callaway, Missouri. She died on 26 May 1946 in Fulton, Callaway, Missouri.

William and Margaret started their marriage in the neighborhood of his youth in Callaway, Missouri. His father gave William a deed of conveyance for 40-acres of land, the NW 1/4 of the NE Quarter of Section 36 in Township 48, Range 8, to be exact. The conveyance deed was probably a lease or in some way an intention for William to eventually own the property, but it was not a sale of the land. So William and Margaret didn’t own their farm, but were settled, farming, and likely involved in some logging activities, on property near the Missouri River.

But, John Estes, William’s dad, got sick. He suffered from consumption for a few years and then passed away 12 May 1859. The life William and Margaret were living was disrupted.

At the time of the 1860 Federal Census, William did not own land, but had personal property worth $100. William’s brother and step-mother lived nearby. She was listed as the property owner.

1860 Federal Census, William Riley Estes.
1860 Federal Census, Moses Estes and Cynthia Estes.

The 1860s and 70s were probably very difficult for William.

His father’s probate process was slow. William was able to buy a horse from his dad’s estate.

But, it was determined that all of the land that his father had acquired had to be sold. This included the place that William lived and farmed.

John Estes, probate.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the Civil War broke out. William had to register for the draft on 1 Jul 1863, but there is no indication that he served. Missouri was a tough state to be in during the Civil War.

Civil War Draft Registrations, William R. Estes.

Callaway County, where the Estes family lived, actually ceded from both sides during the Civil War. They established a Kingdom and called it the Kingdom of Callaway. They supposedly didn’t want anything to do with either side of the conflict, but in reality were deeply involved in the war. They suffered losses caused by both Union soldiers and Confederate guerrillas. William Estes probably did not vote for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election. Of the 2,632 votes cast in the county, only 15 of them were for Lincoln. Rural Missouri counties like Callaway depended on slave labor. William Estes didn’t own any slaves. But, his neighbors did. The state of Missouri sided with the union only because of the votes of its large populations in urban areas. Rural areas like Callaway County had their loyalties with the south.

Fulton, the capital of Callaway County, was occupied during most of the war by Union soldiers and state militia. There was a prisoner of war camp there. This probably contributed to delaying the settling of William’s father’s estate. Southern sympathizers across the county were afraid of imprisonment and death. They were often robbed and pillaged by the occupying troops and “marauding bushwhackers.” One official battle happened in the county, but it occurred about 30-miles northwest of where the Esteses lived.

Tragedy continued to plague the family. William’s wife, Margaret A. O’Donnell Estes, passed away sometime around 1865.  William was left alone to raise their five children who ranged in age from infancy to about nine-years old.  Not surprisingly, when he was about 33-years old, William Riley Estes married again, to Sarah Hill in about 1866 at Callaway, Missouri. Sarah, called “Sally,” was the widow of George Horton. She brought two daughters to the marriage, namely Mary Horton and Matilda Cassandrew “Cassie” Horton.

William Riley Estes and Sarah Hill had the following children:

  1. Ida Estes was born on 14 Nov 1868 in Steedman, Callaway, Missouri.  She married George Wilson Lem on 29 Jul 1885 in Cleburne, Johnson, Texas. She died on 26 Sep 1947 in Houston, Harris, Texas (Age: 78).
  2. Augusta Estes was born on 23 Feb 1870 in Steedman, Callaway, Missouri. She died on 14 May 1959 in Cleveland, Oklahoma. She married Samuel C. Utz on 10 Jan 1900 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma.

At the time of the 1870 Federal Census, William and Sally still lived, with their blended family, in Auxvasse Township, Callaway, Missouri. He didn’t own any real estate, but she was listed owning real estate worth $200. William was listed as a tenant farmer. His step-mother lived next door, but was no longer a property owner. His brother Moses Patrick, however, had become the owner of real estate worth $400.

1870 Federal Census, William Riley Estes.

By the time Missouri took its state census in 1876, William had moved his family across the county border to Benton City, Osage, Missouri. We can only guess that he needed to move in order to find a farm to rent. William had some livestock, namely 2 mules, 2 jacks, 2 cattle, and 15 hogs. He reported having 80 bushels of wheat and 150 bushels of corn. Benton City wasn’t far from their old home. But even today, it would be about an hour drive since there isn’t a bridge over the Missouri River to give a more direct route. But, in the mid-1870s travel was even slower. It must have been very difficult to move away from roots and family.

1876 Missouri Census, William Riley Estes.

William and his second wife Sally were both deceased by 1880. According to a history that their daughter Ida Estes Lem wrote in 1942, they both died at Sedalia, Pettis, Missouri. Ida wrote that Sally died in 1879 and William in 1880. Sedalia is a long way from Callaway and Osage Counties, like 100-miles to the west. It seems odd that they would have moved so far to the west, but maybe he was still seeking land or places to farm. No record of the couple has been found in Pettis County. No records of their deaths have been found. No records of their burials have been found. Ida was only about 11-years old when she was orphaned, so she may have gotten some details wrong. For example, she said he was born Tennessee and was 53-years old when he died in 1880. That would put his birth year at 1827 which is five years earlier than draft and census records would indicate.

But, 1880 Federal Census records confirm their deaths. In 1880, the children were orphaned and scattered across the country. Sally’s daughter Cassie was living in Sedalia, working as a servant. William and Sally’s daughter, Ida, was living in Sedalia, listed as the daughter of J.T. (John T.) and L.A. (Lucy Ann Deming) Wright. Other children were in Texas and Missouri. We don’t know where the oldest son, our ancestor John Thomas Estes, was in 1880. He told a story of running away from home because he didn’t like his stepmother. But, maybe that just means he didn’t make the trip west with the rest of the family. He was with them in 1876, and by 1880 he was already an adult at 24-years old.

Family History, 1942, Ida Estes Lem.

The story of William Riley Estes ends here. It is frustrating to not be able to find out exactly what happened. His 47 or so years seemed to be filled with a lot of heartbreak. Hopefully, between the recorded history, he had happier times.

Daughters and step-daughter of William Riley Estes.

Where is he in the tree?

Relationship chart, Thomas Leland Estes to William Riley Estes.
Pedigree chart, William Riley Estes.

How do I learn more?

The Estes Family

  • Publication date: January 2019
  • Pages: 740
  • Formats:
  • This book traces our Estes family from our earliest known Estes ancestor, Nicholas Estes, who was born about 1495 in England. His descendants, beginning with our immigrant ancestor, Abraham Estes, lived through all the major events in American history. Detailed biographies are included for twelve generations of ancestors from Nicholas through the family of his 9th great-grandson, Thomas Leland Estes. Thousands of descendants have been identified and are listed.

Selected Sources

A History of Callaway County 1984, (Fulton, Missouri: The Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society, 1983).

Ancestry.com, U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), www.ancestry.com, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); NAI: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 1 of 1. Record for Wm R Estis, http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1666&h=3608115&indiv=try.

Ancestry.com, Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 (Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007), www.ancestry.com, Estes-O’Donnell, 1855, https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1171/vrmmo1833_c1165-0329?pid=511614091&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?_phsrc%3Dyxj1432%26_phstart%3DsuccessSource%26usePUBJs%3Dtrue%26indiv%3D1%26db%3DMOmarriages%26gss%3Dangs-d%26new%3D1%26rank%3D1%26msgdm%3D8%26msgdm_x%3D1%26msgdy%3D1855%26msgdy_x%3D1%26msgdp%3D2%26msgpn__ftp%3DCallaway%2520County,%2520Missouri,%2520USA%26msgpn%3D460%26MSAV%3D1%26uidh%3Dsf2%26pcat%3D34%26fh%3D0%26h%3D511614091%26recoff%3D%26ml_rpos%3D1&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=yxj1432&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true#?imageId=vrmmo1833_c1165-0329_2. Online publication – Ancestry.com. Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2007.Original data – Missouri Marriage Records. Jefferson City, MO, USA: Missouri State Archives, Microfilm.

Ida Estes Lem, “Record of family history,” 16 May 1942.

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